'Street Fighter IV' on iPhone: Loud, Dumb and Fun as Ever
Games in Capcom's "Street Fighter" series have always been noisy, colorful, ridiculous brawlers, and the latest port to the iPhone, "Street Fighter IV," is no exception. The game delivers exactly what fans of the series have come to expect, and it's nicely surprising how little the virtual touchscreen buttons diminish from "SFIV's" playability.
I can't bring myself to download a first-person shooter game on my iPhone anymore, just because I know I'll get sick of it before the third level. Its icon will sit there on the screen, its data will languish on the drive. Delete it? Can't. Might get stuck in an elevator, beat all the games I actually like, and have nothing left to do but count the minutes.
Nothing against the companies that make these things; I just can't abide any game in that genre that won't let you touch physical buttons. Instead, you usually get these virtual control sticks/buttons at the bottom corners of the screen. That just doesn't work for me when I want to precisely aim a weapon down a long corridor and train sites on a moving target. Makes my fingers feel numb.
But I've learned that sort of configuration works just fine when you're talking about classic button-mashers like the "Street Fighter" games from Capcom. The company just ported the latest title in that series, "Street Fighter IV," to the iPhone and iPod touch.
Perhaps the term "button masher" is too critical -- this kind of game does require more know-how than operating a slot machine. It's just that close is usually good enough. Get up close to your opponent, hit a button, and if your timing's just right, you'll pulverize him with a blow that would send a real human to the ER. Then he'll just get up and set you on fire with his breath.
For anyone not familiar with "Street Fighter" gameplay, it goes like this: You choose your character, then duke it out one-on-one with every other character in a series of fights. Each character has a unique set of special moves, and most of them are able to perform magical/mystical/technological feats of martial artistry that you will definitely not see in a UFC fight.
In addition to the standard health meter, you also get a Super Combo Guage -- fill it by landing enough hits, and you can send your fighter into a seething rampage of special moves. Your revenge meter fills as you take damage and lets you execute more special moves when you're in a tight spot.
I was afraid pulling off all of these combo maneuvers would be nearly impossible using the virtual buttons that FPS games have taught me to hate. Not so -- I was shooting waves of pure energy from my bare hands in seconds. There's actually a "special move assist" button to simplify things further (it can be deactivated), and the execution of characters' special moves can be found through an entry in the Pause menu. No cheatbooks required.
Just the Eight of Us
Character-wise, you're limited to eight fighters from which to choose; the rest will be your opponents. Most of these are among the characters established in the early '90s in "Street Fighter 2." That limited roster left me wanting -- this is a game you can finish in under 20 minutes. On the plus side, the animation does look a lot better than it did on the old Super Nintendo.
Beating back a gauntlet of familiar opponents isn't the only thing you can do in "SFIV." For single players, a Dojo option teaches you the ins and outs of play control, Free Sparring puts you up against a character of your choice, and Training Room gives you a dummy opponent. Then there's a Vs. mode that pits you against another real player, and it uses Bluetooth, so you don't have to be on the same WiFi network.
One of the more useful options "SFIV" puts on the menu is complete button reconfiguration -- drag any button anywhere on the screen. You can also set transparencies.
The "Street Fighter" series is a loud, colorful showcase of high-impact fisticuffs and not much else. The special moves are over the top, the story's thin, and even the fighting setup is literally two-dimensional. The series is really all about big, dumb, fist-fighting fun, and that's all it needs to be.
Ported to the iPhone OS, the game delivers exactly what's expected without letting the necessary evil of virtual buttons diminish the gameplay.